I never thought I would hold a funeral service for a name, but I did.
The classroom was abuzz with new faces as parents brought school supplies in for their little ones. It was Open House Night for the 2019 school year.
“Hi, I think my daughter is in your class this year – she is so excited to meet you!”
“Yes!” I said, “It is so nice to meet you I’m Ms. Lo–” My words stopped abruptly as my mind back-tracked over the past year. (wait. No. I’m divorced, because my husband was an abusive sex- addict. I changed my name. I hope she doesn’t ask why my name is different this year.)
“I’m Ms. Sadie”, I said with a smile, hoping she would not see the twinge of panic and sadness that I’m sure was flashing over my face.
I always forget to be sad and grieve for myself. It is so much easier to avoid the pain of change, sadness and loss. But, I’m talking about something different. It’s not that I don’t want to sit in healthy solitude and embrace my grief. It’s that when the waves of grief come from outside triggers and environments – I am somehow shocked that I’m crying all the way home or that I’m having a “low” day with a lack of energy. This was one of those times.
As the first week of school started, I didn’t realize how jarring it would be for me to hear a classroom of first graders use my NEW name over and over.
“Ms. Sadie, can I go to the bathroom?”
“Ms. Sadie, can I hold your hand?”
“Ms. Sadie, you look pretty today”
“Ms. Sadie, she pushed me.”
Each time they spoke my new name, I felt a little sting on my heart. If they only knew what it cost for me to become Ms. Sadie.
I climbed my way up the steps to my apartment, closed the door, and collapsed into a ball of tears in the entryway. “Why is this so hard? “ I thought, “It’s just a flippin’ name!”
Luckily, I’ve done enough work now to know when it is time to stop. Slow down. And sit with grief. I needed to find a way to mark the loss. In that moment I realized this was so difficult, because something had died. She had died. The woman that had been a part of me for 11 years – she is gone now. She had her time and place, but she cannot continue the rest of this journey with me. I knew I needed to document the grief and say a proper good-bye to the woman I used to be. I held a funeral for my name.
In the past, during my abusive marriage I HATED when people called me “Mrs.” because no one knew my secrets. No one knew that my husband had an addiction to pornography, or that he exploded in anger every time I asked for honesty and vulnerability. No one knew the violence I had experienced at the hands of a man who said he “loved me.” No one knew that instead of being cherished, pursued and respected, I was being neglected, abandoned and choked. No one knew that when I led worship on Sunday mornings, I was dead inside – God was dead to me. When they called me “Mrs.” I cringed.
As I began my good-byes vile hatred spilled out onto the paper. I was never happy as “her”. She was in constant turmoil and always wondering if her marriage would ever be healthy, loving and normal. She was in a constant battle to get some consistency and be close to her husband. She was unhappy in her own skin. She didn’t know what else she could possibly do to get her marriage to work. She wanted children and always condemned herself for never being able to convince herself it was safe enough to do so. (It wasn’t)
After writing furiously at the mistakes and torment I was trapped in for 11 long years – a switch flipped. Rather than cursing myself – I began to re-frame the pain and THANK her for the sacrifices that she made to get me to where I am today. I had compassion on her struggle, I looked upon her with kindness and empathy. She was a lost 22 year old girl who did NOT KNOW. She didn’t know and she held on for 11 years because she wanted to do what was right. She cared enough to struggle, fight, understand, love more and wait. Wait to see if transformation was possible. She did her best. As I began to forgive her, words sweet as honey dripped from my pen. This was the sweet good-bye I needed to move on.
I want to invite you into the service that I held for the woman who sacrificed her life in order to get me to where I needed to be. I want to honor her death and put her to rest, marking this moment in time that she and I will never be again.
Dear “Mrs. …”
Tomorrow I will walk into the classroom and you will no longer exist. I’m not really even sure how to mark the passage of this loss, but I want to acknowledge your death.
When you existed, you were twisted up, unsure of yourself , your reality and worth. You had to work for your value. You performed and bled for validation. You never wanted to admit that your marriage was unhealthy and you felt like a stranger in your own life.
I must lay you to rest: Here lies “Mrs. ..” Too young to know what she wanted. Living a lie and playing a role other’s expected her to perform. She worked too hard and didn’t protect her self. She didn’t know. She did the best with what she had. She worked really, really hard. She established herself and forged a path for Ms. Sadie.
“Mrs. …” did the work in order for Ms. Sadie to emerge in a place of peace, rest, assurance and confidence. I will forever be grateful to the sacrifices she made to protect me and give me the best chance after death.
Because after death comes life and re-birth and “Mrs…” made the ultimate sacrifice so that I could THRIVE.
From ashes come a crown of beauty. The old is gone – her ashes lay in the place of her torment. From her struggle, I can pick pick up her crown of beauty and confidently go forth.
She pushed and worked when no one noticed her efforts. She studied, invested and learned when no one believed she could, and when no one cheered her on. She fought tooth and nail for every decision she made and every gut instinct she had.
Dear “Mrs…” I noticed, I trusted, I believed. It mattered. It all mattered to me. You led me to me and you were enough.
My Dear Sister,
You might read thru that letter of sorrow and think I’m nuts, but I would like to ask you:
What are the places in your heart that twinge when you think of them?
Is there something in your life that has changed drastically and it is time to say good -bye?
What has died and given birth to something new? New perspective? New opportunity? New place?
How have you said good-bye to what is gone?
As betrayed partners – one of the first steps toward our recovery is coming to grips with our reality. We must accept and believe what is staring us in the face. We will not be able to use our voice until we can know and name our reality and then identify our need for safety and healing.
As I have learned how to be divorced and fly solo, I have realized much of what I am grieving is the “marriage I thought I had, but never really did” OR, grieving the “partner I thought I had, but never really did” How do you even begin to grieve a pretend reality?
Each day has been a token, to remind me of the reality, that I lost so much more than a person. I lost an entire dream of a life.
There is hope.
I remember that Jesus spoke often of the spiritual law of death. In order to have re-birth, new life, new beginnings, new glory, newness of Spirit. One must experience death. There is no easy way out. You must feel and move thru loss.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” -2 Corinthians 5:17
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” -John 12:24
“Wail, O cypress, for the cedar has fallen,
for the glorious trees are ruined!
Wail, oaks of Bashan, for the thick forest has been felled!” – Zechariah 11:2
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him.
Let him bury his face in the dust” -Lamentations 3:22 – 29
Grieving thru the loss does not mean we come out the other side getting exactly what we want and everything we have ever dreamed of. It doesn’t even mean that we will be pain free.
When we allow ourselves to take a moment, lament and honor the sadness – it will produce new perspective, comfort, empathy, joy, connection, intimacy, and renewed strength.
Grief is exhausting, but well worth the fight to engage in the sorrow and embrace the goodness that envelopes you as you do your work of letting go.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” -Maya Angelou
You are not alone.
aka: “Ms. Sadie” 🙂
Me too! This school year. Introducing my new name as I travel to all my schools in all my 5 different school districts (I’m a traveling Braille teacher) and to all my students who have been with me for years (I get to stay with my student from preschool to 12th grade). So there is a lot of explaining and reintroducing myself to lots of different people. It’s such a process…almost out of body.
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Oh! Embrace and enjoy your new name!!!